Orlando Magic Season Preview

18 10 2008

My NBA South East Division preview begins with the Orlando Magic:

Orlando Magic

2007-08 Standings 52 – 30, 3rd Eastern Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 50 – 32, 1st South East Division, 4th Eastern Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Mickael Pietrus, Jameer Nelson

Sixth Man:  JJ Redick

Orlando Magic centre Dwight Howard is a beast and the Magic will need him at his domineering best in the upcoming season.

The hopes of the Orlando Magic are built around one man: Dwight Howard. Howard is a beast. The most powerful and dominating centre in the game now that Shaq is on the slide towards retirement. Last year he showed how athletic and creative he is in winning the Slam Dunk contest, even donning a cape and flying Superman style to the hoop. The scary thing is he’s still developing and while his game is flawed there is no reason to suspect he can’t become an all time great.

The only problem is there’s not much else with him. Some people will point to Rashard Lewis and say there’s his sidekick, but I’m afraid I don’t feel the Lewis magic. He’s a scorer sure but for someone 6’10 and playing at the power forward slot you’d expect him to get more than 5.4 rpg. He’s also a below average defender and hardly justifies his massive pay cheque. He’s a great shooter but one skill does not justify great money.

The only other player of note is Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu was outstanding last season, the NBAs Most Improved Player and it was Turkoglu who proved himself the Magic’s clutch performer last season.

The remainder of the roster is filled with players with something to prove. It’s time starting point guard Jameer Nelson lived up to his potential. He only averaged 10.9 ppg last season and the Magic will need him to do a lot more. JJ Redick came into the league with a lot of hype and so far has disappointed. Mickael Pietrus is the third player with something to prove. He’s moved on from the Golden State Warriors and the Magic are looking to him to become the athletic swingman they desperately need.

There is a lingering sense that the Orlando Magic still lack a couple of players to be genuine threats to the elite teams of the league. In particular their point guard play is average (would Howard post Stoudemire-like numbers if he was playing alongside Steve Nash). Howard also lacks a true front court partner. An Udonis Haslem kind of player would be a perfect fit alongside him.

Coach:

Stan Van Gundy is the coach and he has done a solid job with the roster that he has. He’ll be praying that Howard continues to evolve and that they don’t suffer an injury as there’s not much depth.

Bench:

The Magic bench doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. Anthony Johnson will provide steadiness and leadership but they lack a true impact player. Its therefore imperative that JJ Redick become the player he promised when he was drafted.

Star Player:

Dwight Howard is the superstar around which all Magic hopes rest. How he continues to develop in the next few seasons will dictate whether the Magic will finally win a championship.

Team MVP:

Hedo Turkoglu is the clearcut team MVP in Orlando. It’s Turkoglu who provides silky offensive play and is the type of player that Howard needs surrounding him.

Final Prognosis:

The Magic will easily win the South East again but won’t get past the Celtics, Cavs or Pistons of this world. The Magic are still developing and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them in the Finals within five years, but they’re not quite there yet.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.

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